A DIVIDED LOYALTY (Inspector Ian Rutledge #22) by Charles Todd
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publication: 4 February 2020 by William Morrow
Q and A with Charles Todd, authors of the Ian Rutledge series and the Bess Crawford series. The authors are a mother and son writing team, Caroline and Charles, based on the East Coast of the United States.
Since I read history at University, I have always been interested in reading historical novels, including historical mysteries. I have been a fan of your books since I saw your blurbs on other novels written by my favorite authors. I often look at blurbs and discover new authors that way.
For me, this story, which occurs at the end of the Great War. is a wonderful combination of history and mystery.
In your own words, what is the underlying theme of A DIVIDED LOYALTY ?
Caroline and Charles: This is best answered together. The theme of the book of course was loyalty—to the living or the dead—to one’s duty or one’s career—to the one or the many. How does someone choose, when faced with such a dilemma? And once that choice has been made, what is the price one must pay for making it? We found that fascinating and challenging to explore.
Could you tell me a bit about your personal history as a mystery reader?
My father read Poe’s THE GOLD BUG to me as a child, and then followed it with TREASURE ISLAND. I was hooked! As soon as I could read for myself, I devoured Poe, Christie, Conan Doyle, and then moved on to every mystery title I could find. Historical mysteries, spy novels, adventure, I loved them all. I think it was the excitement of the mystery that appealed to me in the beginning, but as I read more, it was the construction, the puzzle, the WHY of it, that I enjoyed as well. I could travel the world in a book long before I could travel on my own—I could revisit history in a book long before I could see those places for myself.
My mother read to us in turn. And I expect it was her enthusiasm for the mystery that appealed to my sister and to me. Conan Doyle and Christie, Robert Louis Stevenson, to start, and by that time, we too were reading on our own. I liked the puzzle, I liked to follow the clues and the investigation. I also loved biographies, and reading those helped develop my insight into characters. It was great fun, and I never dreamed I’d end up writing mysteries of my own. The surprising thing is that Caroline and I both loved history as well as mysteries, which was one of the reasons we decided to see if we could write together.
What was the seed of the idea for A DIVIDED LOYALTY? Can you identify one particular moment that inspired this story or did the story grow and develop over time?
We had visited Avebury before, but at the time we were already working on a different setting for another book. Still, it captured our imagination, and so when we were there again recently, we knew the time had come to put Avebury in a Rutledge mystery. There are many stones still standing there, but one in particular looms over you like a veiled and hooded figure. Benevolent in the sunlight but malevolent by moonlight. It was the beginning, the perfect place to leave a body.
That was the setting. Next came the people. We asked ourselves, what is it about this setting, the isolation, that would bring a victim here? What would drive that killer to murder? And as we talked about the murder itself, we realized that the reason for it had threads that led to all sorts of possibilities. That was where the theme of loyalty arose. As we developed it, our excitement grew, because it worked so well with the characters and the setting.
What is your favorite novel that no one else has heard of?
Caroline and Charles:
We would both say “A PRAYER FOR THE DYING,” an early Jack Higgins. It gave us both a different view of a murderer. And that in the long run changed how we would see our own mystery novels. The killer was a “real person” in the sense that you could understand why he had killed. He wasn’t a drug lord or serial killer, he had an actual reason for what he’d done, and it made him a far more interesting character, a better foil for those trying to catch him. And so our own murderers are ordinary people faced with a terrible dilemma, where the only choice open to them is to kill. As a result, they are more challenging to write about! And—we hope—more interesting to read about.
What would you like the reader to know about Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard?
I think it’s his compassion that draws me to him. He has always believed that someone ought to speak for the victim, the dead. When he was promoted from the Met to Scotland Yard as an Inspector, he took his work seriously, searching for answers—the right answer, not just the convenient one. He looks at the victim, at the people who knew him or her, and at the circumstances surrounding the murder, then follows where that leads him. It makes him far more interesting to write about. And more challenging, because he’ll take risks to get at the truth.
By the end of the Great War, Rutledge has been through hell in the trenches. It has changed him, in many ways. He knows more about death first hand. He’s had to kill. And he’s come home to hunt down killers once more. For Rutledge it’s become even more personal. And I think it’s really fascinating to see post-war England through his eyes as he does his duty. War didn’t put crime on hold. And peace has been bought at horrendous cost. That’s the world he lives and works in.